Love by the Loaf

headshot of Rabbi Sue Shankman

Since March, students and their families who had spent years preparing for, planning, and dreaming about their b’nei mitzvah had to make difficult – and disappointing – decisions about how to best honor their milestone while keeping everyone safe and complying with new and evolving regulations.

Meanwhile, I picked up a new hobby — baking challah for Shabbat!  A few weeks into this new tradition, I decided to double, sometimes triple, my recipe and started delivering a fresh loaf of challah to each of my b’nei mitzvah families to enjoy during the Shabbat before their b’nei mitzvah. (In a socially distant way, of course!)

You can just imagine the reaction of a b’nei mitzvah student who opens the front door and sees their rabbi holding challah! This personal gesture brought so much happiness to families that WHC is expanding the initiative.

Now, every student will open their door on the Friday before their b’nei mitzvah to see one of our clergy or educators holding a bag with homemade challah, their Kami Loren Nathanson Kiddush Cup, and a personal note.

Our clergy also bring one of our Torah scrolls for students who become b’nei mitzvah at their home over Zoom. It is our honor and privilege to share this sacred piece of Washington Hebrew Congregation with families. Of course, we would prefer to see each child on the bimah in our beautiful sanctuary and personally hand them their traditional WHC gifts during the service. But, as the saying goes, when life gives you lemons … make challah! And here’s our secret tip to making it even more spectacular: place your challah in the oven to warm it up before eating.

Trust me, that first bite will be amazing!